It’s easy to be discouraged if you’re a newly minted lawyer these days. Landing a spot at a well-respected school, securing an associate job, shouldering hefty academic debt: The gauntlet can seem endless. But when I read over the profiles of our eight 2012 Lifetime Achievers, I couldn’t help but hope that law students read these stories. The achievers’ professional accomplishments are tremendous. To name a few: Michele Coleman Mayes helmed the legal departments at preeminent corporations. Morrison & Foerster’s James Brosnahan has gone to trial more than 140 times and won more than 90 percent of those cases. And DLA Piper’s George Mitchell is a household name for his work in the Senate and abroad.

What heartens me is the achievers’ enthusiasm for their profession: both for the practice of law itself and for the ways that the field has allowed them to further their many causes. It’s inspiring to see all that they’ve accomplished with their law degrees, and it’s a reminder to the law school class of 2012 of how much patience and persistence can, ultimately, pay off.

— Robin Sparkman, editor-in-chief

Previous Lifetime Achievers coverage :: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007


The Morrison & Foerster partner has defended “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh, alleged IRA member Kevin Artt, and the defendant in a giant tax evasion case.
The California district judge has a “desire to understand the predicaments and the needs of the plaintiffs and defendants before him.”
The Hogan Lovells partner has chaired a quartet of public interest groups and cofounded one of his own: the International Senior Lawyers’ Project.
Writing in a landmark case legalizing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, Choate Hall & Stewart’s Marshall took a strong stance against “the creation of second-class citizens.”
The New York Public Library general counsel’s in-house career has been rich in pro bono, diversity efforts, and mentoring. 
Video Extra: Michele Coleman Mayes in her own words.
The guiding force behind the Good Friday peace accords in Northern Ireland, DLA Piper’s Mitchell has long juggled private practice with special government assignments.
In the late eighties, Wiley Rein’s cofounder saw the future, and it looked sharp.
Law Firm Distinguished Leader Award | ROBERT SHEEHAN
Under his leadership, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom more than doubled in head count, expanded its international footprint, and firm revenue jumped more than threefold.